Rapunzel Rapunzel, Let Down Your Hair

by Robert H. Bestor, Jr.

One of the many joys of European travel is a category of overnight accommodation that is rare in North America—the gemütlich little hotel and restaurant operated for decades by the same family.

Yes, there are bed and breakfasts in many of our cities but rarely do they have a restaurant, and in our town of Ashland, Oregon, (home to about 60 of them) the Las Vegas over-under betting on burnout for B&B proprietors is about four years.

One could argue this point, but surely it is beyond dispute that another European hotel category is totally without a North American counterpart—the small, family-owned castle. Our favorite example of this genre is Schloss Haunsperg (schlosshaunsperg.com) in Hallein bei Salzburg, an eight-bedroom, one-chapel hideaway owned and gracefully operated for several decades by Eike and Georg von Gernerth, who roll out the warmest welcome in all of Austria.

Another is Schloss Sommersdorf, an 800-year-old moated, stone fortress in the tiny village of Sommersdorf about 12 km straight south of Anspach along the FrankfurtNürnberg Autobahn. A mere 460 years ago the family von Crailsheim signed escrow papers at the local title company and took over the Sommersdorf, and naturally, they still own it today. Then 15 years ago, the current occupant and major domo, Baron Manfred von Crailsheim, a physician practicing in Anspach, converted a portion of the interior into small apartments and guest bedrooms that are now available to rent.

While an overnight or two is possible, Sommersdorf is best suited for stays of a week or more, and it makes a great headquarters for seeing this part of Germany. Such towns as Nürnberg, Rothenberg ob der Tauber, Dinkelsbühl and Schwabisch Hall are all within a short drive. Würzburg, Bad Mergentheim, Wertheim and Bamberg are a bit farther but still good day-trip candidates. Anspach, too, is of some interest, even if it’s just to find a restaurant since the town of Sommersdorf is a bit light in that category.

The Schloss is highly recommended for families. Children, particularly, will cotton to the idea of living in a real castle. As you might expect in an 800-year-old building, there are a few rough spots but its apartments and double rooms are comfortable and authentic. The former all have living room, bedroom, bathroom and kitchenette and come equipped with telephone, radio and satellite-TV. We stayed in one of the doubles. It was huge, with a canopied bed, and plenty of antique furnishings.

The Baron is a wonderful host who dotes on guests, frequently inviting them into his private quarters for a late-afternoon glass of wine. He especially likes to take visitors on night-time forays into catacombs under the adjacent chapel, where they are introduced to the castle’s collection of mummies, including several Crailsheim ancestors and a Swedish colonel still wearing his boots who was interred during the Thirty Years War (1618-1648). Macabre, but interesting.

Schloss Sommersdorf is a Wasserburg or water castle and its stone towers and ramparts are protected by a moat and several ponds which are home to ducks and swans. There is a lovely garden, a swimming pool, and grounds for strolling. The castle’s drawbridge was replaced by a permanent, stone bridge in the 19th century.

It should be noted that Schloss Sommersdorf can be booked through the excellent travel packager, Untours (www.untours.com, 888-868-6871), as one of their products: a week in July at Sommersdorf including a rental car, a stocked refrigerator, and on-the-scene travel advice if needed, is $1,698 for two persons. If you stay for two weeks it’s $2,638.

Below is info for those who want to book directly with the castle.

Daily Rates:
Rooms and apartments are priced from €104 to €140 depending on room and length of stay. An additional, connecting bedroom costs from €68 to €85 per day. Breakfast is extra.

Dr. Manfred von Crailsheim, D-8802 Schloss Sommersdorf, Germany
tel. +49/09805/91920, www.schloss-sommersdorf.de.